Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Former CIA CI Chief: To Catch A Spy: The Art Of Counterintelligence

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of James M. Olson’s To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence 

For more than three decades, James M. Olson ranked high among the CIA operatives tasked with pilfering secrets from the enemy — in those days, chiefly the Soviet Union. As a young officer he went underground, literally, to tap a buried cable connecting an outlying military post with a Moscow office.

He ended his career as chief of counterintelligence (CI, in intel jargon), one of the more ticklish positions at CIA. As one of the successors to the controversial James J. Angleton, Mr. Olson inherited a “disgraceful legacy that for years discredited the CI profession.” As he puts it, “Do operators really want to hear that there may be problems with their careers?”

He is credited with restoring CI’s reputation. In retirement, Mr. Olson joined the faculty of the Bush School at Texas A&M University.

Why is counterintelligence important? As Mr. Olson writes, it “consists of all the measures a nation takes to protect its citizens, secrets and technology from foreign spies.” And over the years some 80 countries (including friends) have attempted to spy on the United States.

Mr. Olson offers several commandments for effective counterintelligence. First on his list is taking the offensive — through double-agent and penetration operations. He cites several instances in which in-place CIA sources fingered American turncoats — including CIA officer Philip Agee and agency employee Larry Wu-Tai Chin, for instance, who spied for the Soviets and Chinese, respectively.

Knowing that the CIA is actively recruiting inside sources would keep the opposition off-balance. He would have American agents constantly probe rival agencies for recruits, to the point of sending bogus “walk ins” to foreign embassies to offer their services.

Conversely, he advocates strong in-house vigilance to detect enemy penetrations. If a colleague is acting suspiciously, or showing signs of sudden unexplained wealth, alert the counterintelligence office so that an investigation can be made. Such vigilance could have toppled CIA officer Aldridge Ames early on when he began lavish spending — with Soviet money, as events proved.

And why was not suspicion directed at Ana Montes, the ranking Cuban specialist in the Defense Intelligence Agency — and who made no secret of her admiration of the Castro regime, and her loathing of U.S. policy toward Latin America. She spied for Cuba for six years before she aroused suspicions of an alert co-worker.

As Mr. Olson laments, one reason persons remain silent about a suspicious colleague is the inbred American aversion to acting as an informer on acquaintances. “Had [Montes] kept her mouth shut,” Mr. Olson writes, she might have escaped exposure forever.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

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